Why Are Cats More Independent Than Dogs? Science Says They Just Don't Need Us Around

The sunglass cat poses during the Los Angeles Feline Film Festival at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on September 21, 2014. The annual event featuring celebrity cats and feline films raises money for local cat sanctuaries and rescue organizations. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Whether you view it as a blessing or a curse, dogs are like the needy, attention-seeking younger siblings to aloof, ultra-cool cats. Why are cats more independent than dogs? Dogs are always vying for the attention of whomever's closest, but my sister's cat shows affection by following her around and staring creepily from the doorway of whatever room she's inhabiting at the moment. And also by knocking makeup off of her bathroom counter and trying to smother her with fur every night at 3 a.m., of course, because cats are weird like that. 

So what gives? What makes cats so independent when dogs have a heart attack every time their owners leave their sight? Researchers at the University of Lincoln believe they've finally pinpointed the source. Their study looked at the relationships between participants and their cats by placing the pet in three different unfamiliar environments. In one situation, the cats were left with their owners; in another, they were in a room with a stranger. In the third, the cats were on their own. 

If the cats had developed "secure attachment" to their owners, as dogs have been shown to do, the scientists hypothesized that they would show signs of separation anxiety. They measured the level of attachment in three ways: amount of contact sought by the cat, level of passive behavior, and signs that the cat missed its owner. 

As any cat owner could have told them, though, the study indicated that cats don't mind being left behind by their owner. In fact, the data indicated that cats simply don't form secure attachments the way dogs do.

"Although our cats were more vocal when the owner rather than the stranger left them with the other individual, we didn't see any additional evidence to suggest that the bond between a cat and its owner is one of secure attachment," Professor Daniel Mills said, according to Science Daily. Furthermore, he believed that their meowing could either be a learned response or a sign of frustration, which would make sense considering the special language between cats and their owners

In other words, your cat doesn't flip out every time you leave the room, because it doesn't feel like you need to be around to protect it, which researchers believe is a holdover from their days as solitary hunters. 

However, this doesn't mean cats are unable to form relationships with people; secure attachment simply means that the animal perceives the other as a haven of safety and security. Cats may not depend on you for their sense of safety, but previous research has shown that they are perfectly capable of showing affection and developing bonds with their owners. They might think we're too stupid to fend for ourselves, but that doesn't mean they don't like humans. Like the aloof oldest child I compared them to earlier, they just have weird ways of showing it. 

TL;DR: Mr. Fluffypants doesn't need you around, but chances are he wants you around as an endless source of free catnip if nothing else. Hey, that's good enough for me. 

Images: Giphy (3)

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